Dear Parents and Carers,
NAPLAN….. is upon us!
Week 5 this term is NAPLAN testing week across Australia and without fail the media frenzy will commence with significant haste. What is NAPLAN, what is it all about, what is its purpose and what do we get out of it?
Importantly NAPLAN is an acronym which stands for National Assessment Programme – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and it is an annual national assessment for all students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9. All students in these year levels are expected to participate in tests in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.
Over the past 40 years, international and national testing has increased substantially. While early implementation assisted selection of students for higher education, more recent national assessments are used to evaluate curriculum implementation. As different curricula operate internationally, benchmarking has been developed to facilitate comparisons between countries or specific groups of students and identify strengths and weaknesses.
NAPLAN claims to achieve this by collecting a breadth of information that cannot be obtained from classroom assessment. Government benefits from analysis on such large data samples: outcomes for groups including males/females, Indigenous and low socio-economic status students provide an evidence-base to inform policy development, targeted funding and resource allocation.
Comparing individual students to others in their state, and national benchmarks provides detailed information for teachers to inform future learning. Individual students can also be ‘mapped’ over time, to identify areas of improvement or those requiring intervention. In addition, national testing assists students moving schools in that it allows immediate identification of their learning level by their new school.
A disadvantage of NAPLAN is that this rational perspective of benchmarking students nationally is lost in the significant impacts the results can have in influencing government funding; providing data that allows schools to be ranked and influencing teacher selection of content – ‘known as teaching to the test!’ Is the snapshot information obtained from NAPLAN in its current format substantial enough to justify the effects? Assessment for and of learning needs to encompass more than multiple choice tests. Observations, analysing, evaluating, questioning, problem-solving and collaborative tasks are examples that cannot be incorporated into NAPLAN in its current format.
Assessment is a complex and often controversial area of education in Australia. In this context, standardised tests are just one of the assessment modes that teachers and schools can use. They are easy to administer and the ‘standardisation’ means that students’ performance can be compared to that of the wider population to help answer the question ‘how is she/ he going?’
But the key to effective assessment that supports learning needs to directly inform teachers’ planning for their students. Utilising multiple sources of internal and external data and mapping longitudinal data sets over time is paramount. Data from standardised testing can contribute, but needs to be complemented by information from other sources – NAPLAN, school based testing, analysis of work samples, formative assessment practices and teacher observation that contribute to the teacher’s full picture of a student’s learning path.
Please note overleaf is the school’s timetable for the NAPLAN tests during Week 5 which run from Tuesday 15th – Thursday 17th May with possible catch up testing in the afternoons or on Friday 18th May.
Also, students may be withdrawn from the testing programme by their parent/carer. This is a matter for consideration by individual parents/carers in consultation with the College. Please contact the College as per the recent SEQTA message for further information if needed as withdrawals are intended to address issues such as religious beliefs and philosophical objections to testing.
Mr Simon Edgar – Head of Junior and Middle School